Notes from the back row 

Happy to be home

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Happy happy, joy joy. Everyone in Whistler is happy. Happy because Mother Nature keeps vomiting obscene amounts of snow on us. Happy because the Christmas/New Year’s gong show is over. Happy that we don’t live in Vancouver (it rains every day and 98 per cent of the people don’t know how to drive). And I’m happy to be back from a month of sun burning and relaxing in wonderful Bali — home of the $1 bootleg DVD.

All this happiness is even reflected on the silver screens of the most excellent Village 8 with such films as The Pursuit of Happyness, Happily N’Ever After, and, still kicking, Happy Feet.

In Italian director Gabriele Muccino’s American debut The Pursuit of Happyness the Fresh Prince uses his acting to overcome some bad decisions, a nagging wife, poverty, homelessness and those pesky parental responsibilities and decides to risk it all on a slim-chance intern position before finally making it as a stock broker. Yes, the American Dream comes to life.

Billed as the feel-good flick of the year, Happyness falls more into the area of heavy sentiment and emotional manipulation. It focuses far too much on main character Chris Gardner’s problems and set backs and not enough on him, or how much he loves his son. He says it a lot but we don’t actually see too much.

While Gardner’s real life story is amazing, the film doesn’t do anything to address race, poverty, or anything of real social significance. Homelessness is totally glossed over, there are no secondary characters to speak of and after two hours of drudgery we’re told, via on-screen titles, that Gardner makes it in the end, yippee. Luckily, Smith’s charisma saves the flick from being total crap (his kid is okay too) but in the end Happyness comes across as hollow and unrealistic as the cleanest-subway-bathroom-ever that Gardner is forced to sleep in one night. Use your acting Will, make me cry.

Next up? Happily N’Ever After, a film I’ve happily never seen. Looks like the animation was done by a meth freak on a three-year-old laptop and the whole fairy-tale story that wants to be clever and funny like Shrek instead comes off as boring and stupid like Freddie Prinz Jr, who narrates. Skip it.

Skipping right along, Primeval, a weakly scripted mix of African mysticism and dubious acting opens Friday. This is a giant killer lizard movie though and some people are into those. I am. If you liked Boa vs Python or Frankenfish , this will entertain.

Probably the best flick screening this week is the near future-dystopia picture Children of Men starring Clive Owen as a man living in a desperate, infertile world gone straight to shit. Only Britain soldiers on. Clive is kidnapped and thrust into a terrorist/activist struggle attempting to save the only woman who’s gotten pregnant in the last 18 years. Part sci-fi, part action adventure the film doesn’t truly tackle as many future socio/political issues as it might and the backstory needs filling out, but it makes up for it with visionary direction from Alphonso Cuaron and some of the best one-shot cinematography ever committed to film. The handheld, docu-verite style camera work is truly amazing, although it does drain a bit of the emotion from the film by constantly reminding you you’re watching a movie, one that is incredibly shot. Still, I’d happily watch this film twice. Look for the visual recreation of a classic Pink Floyd album cover.

And that’s the week in movies, and happiness. It’s nice to be home.

AT VILLAGE 8 Jan. 12-18: Children of Men; Primevil; Happily N’Ever After; Pursuit of Happyness; Night at the Museum; Happy Feet; Casino Royale; Borat; Good Shepherd; Rocky Balboa; Holiday.

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